Nursing trends show a profession in transition
The healthcare industry is changing rapidly, and nurses, the largest group of healthcare professionals in the nation, are at the forefront of these changes. Despite the difficult economic conditions of recent years, nursing as a profession has thrived -- particularly when compared to other professions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job growth for nurses will continue to be more rapid than the national average, making the profession among the best career choices available today. So what can nurses and those considering entering the field expect over the next decade?
The demand for nurses will continue. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be nearly 712,000 new nursing positions by 2020, making this profession the fastest growing occupation. One of the factors fueling the growth is the aging population, and there will be great demand for nurses who are trained in geriatrics and who are able to work in ambulatory (i.e., outpatient) settings.
More nurses will work in outpatient settings, home healthcare, and nursing homes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also projects that hospital nursing jobs will grow much more slowly than jobs in outpatient facilities and home health care. This is due both to the growth of the aging population and the increase in the number of medical procedures done on an outpatient basis or in homes.
Hospitals will increasingly require RNs to have four-year degrees. Many hospitals have begun hiring only those nurses with BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) degrees or providing incentives for their employees with two-year associate degrees to return to school to earn their BSNs. Similarly, many nurses with BSNs are heading back to the classroom to become master's degree-level nurse practitioners.
Nurses are getting younger and older. During the last decade, a variety of efforts were made to make nursing more attractive to younger people. As a result, the number of younger nurses (ages 23 to 26) has grown significantly. This is expected to help offset the mass retirement of nurses that is expected to occur between now and 2020. At the same time, more people are entering the profession later in their careers as a result of the proliferation of two-year and accelerated nursing programs that were developed largely to attract people from other fields.
Nursing educators will be in demand as well. Nursing program faculty will be among the retirees who will leave the profession over the next decade and there is expected to be a shortage of nurse educators to take their places.
Technology will continue to alter how nurses operate and learn. Come 2014, all medical records will be electronic, so nurses will be saying a final good-bye to their black pens and a big hello to keyboards and tablets. In hospitals, nurses will continue to rely on texting to relay messages or provide information to doctors. Technology, in the form of digital textbooks, mobile phone applications that access drug information and simulated online clinics, will continue to alter how nursing students learn.